Blind tastings

Guest blogger Dave Malone, Tallahassee Wine Consultant, recently blogged on “testing a secret of a sommelier.” We asked him to follow up with a few more comments.

In a recent post, I introduced the idea of the blind tasting, and the fun, excitement, and education it can bring when learning about your favorite wines.  I hope some of you have had the opportunity to explore this exercise and that you found it both enjoyable and eye-opening.   You may recall that I spared you the “wine geek” details about why the two wines I tasted were so different.  A request was made, however, to break out the “geekiness,” so without further adieu, I present part two.

As a quick refresher, a blind tasting, where the taster doesn’t know which wine he or she is sampling, is a great exercise for learning the stylistic differences between the same grape varieties from diverse regions.  So what makes two wines made from the same grape taste so different?  In one word: terroir.   It comes from the word terre, “land,” and was made famous (although some may say infamous) by French wine producers who use it to describe the conditions of location, geology, and climate that make a wine-growing area unique.

Some take it a step further to include the human element: the decision of which grapes to plant, whether to age the wine in oak or steel or something else, the type of yeast used in fermentation, whether to fine or filter the wine, etc.  There are literally hundreds of different combinations of wine-making techniques that a producer can use on top of what Mother Nature has given that can affect the final flavor and quality of a  wine.

To say the least, winemaking doesn’t exactly follow a cookie-cutter recipe, but that’s what makes trying different wines so much fun.  The terroir and winemaking practices are what gave my Oregon Pinot Noir its forward-fruitiness and the French Burgundy its earthy, rustic appeal laced with the flavor of new oak.

Next time you visit ABC and pick up a bottle of your favorite wine, I encourage you to seek out the store’s wine guru, ask for a similar selection from a different region, and see for yourself how two wines made from the same grape can be so vastly different, but most importantly equally as enjoyable.

–Dave Malone, Wine Consultant, Tallahassee

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